So it is no wonder Google Books’ Sydney-based strategic partner development manager Mark Tanner was on a bit of a post-US launch high last week.
He is hopeful that the success of the first few weeks for Google eBooks there will help boost sign-ups of publishers and booksellers here, which in turn will help fast track the Australian launch.
Tanner said dozens of Australian publishers have agreed to partner with Google eBooks already, that he was in discussions with everyone you’d expect him to be talking to in the industry here, and that most were keen or at least interested in what Google eBooks had to offer.
Australian publishers and booksellers were interested in the potential of bundling print and digital titles into a package for consumers.
He said some 120 bricks and mortar booksellers were live selling ebooks through partnerships with Google eBooks at the time of the US launch, and that he planned to go live simultaneously with Australian retailers in the same way as early as possible in 2011, though there was no set date for the launch here.
Google offers retailers two options: full integration, which is more technically complex and labour intensive, and an easy-to-set-up affiliate program offering commission through straight links back to Google.
Full integration was easier to set up in the United States because many booksellers were already connected via the American Booksellers Association’s Indie Commerce program. The Australian Booksellers Association is in talks with its US counterpart, and Google, on this issue.
Tanner said there had been no formal announcements about pricing in Australia, but it is likely that Google eBooks will look to match Amazon’s discounting on key new titles here at launch as it builds market share.
Tanner said Google eBooks was not currently set up to offer gift vouchers or sharing of ebooks, “but they are areas that we are actively looking at”. They were also considering institutional sales – to library and universities – but were not yet set up for these.
Whether Google eBooks are bought from the tech giant or a reseller, they are stored in one library which can be accessed in a number of ways: online through the cloud, via apps, and via download for e-ink devices.
Most books are available in an original page image (PDF) or reflowed text (ePub) format, and the reader can choose one or switch back and forth as they choose – some high-art PDF-only titles will be best read on larger e-readers.
Enhanced ebooks, featuring interactivity and video, for example, will remain in the app category for now, though Google eBooks offers static full colour titles in the US.
“Our online web reader and our apps all support a beautiful full colour reading experience,” Tanner says.
Syncing (to last page read) between devices will be available for internet-connected Google eBooks customers accessing titles in the cloud via apps or a web browser. Those using e-ink devices like Sony’s Reader and the Kobo will not be able to sync between devices in the same way (though if they open the ebook using Adobe Digital Editions, and the same Adobe ID, syncing is possible).
Due to its proprietary version of the ePub format, Amazon’s Kindle is the only e-ink device that doesn’t support Google eBooks, though a clunky e-reading experience through the browser of the Kindle 3 is possible. That said, the Kindle is also the only e-ink device available in Australia that allows automatic syncing to last page read with other devices.